The Other End of Sunset

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Good Dog Day.

Another brief post, an interstitial posting, if you will. Believe me, I'll get to China travel soon!

But first, it’s my dogs’ birthdays. They are adopted, as you know.

I didn’t actually adopt them.

Well, I guess I did adopt them, but not in the usual sense.

Minnie, a beautiful Dalmation, and Tyrone, a barking brown lab mix, were each rescued by JR. I’ve referred to JR as my friend with the medical issue in several of these posts.

JR rescued Minnie from death row in an animal shelter, and Tyrone from a cardboard box outside a grocery store. She can’t stand cruelty, and loves animals, and has devoted a large portion of her life and her energy to saving them.

When she and I met, she had these two dogs. I liked the dogs almost as much as they liked me, and nearly as much as I like her. JR and I became a couple, and I adopted two dogs.

In the years we have known each other, we have both grown and changed. Which is good, right? She’s spent time volunteering at Best Friends (a huge animal nirvana in Utah where dogs, cats, horses, and random other animals get care) and working at animal adoption days. She made such an impression on our local vet that he wrote a newspaper article about her (and Minnie).

My relationship with JR is complicated. To paraphrase…. What she is ain’t exactly clear.

I used to think that everything had a label. Preferably a short one, with no more than one hyphen.

Again, half as long.
--Norman Maclean

I believed that if you can’t capture the essence of an object, quickly, you haven’t thought it through yet. Part of knowing something is being able to label it. In this mental model, I echoed the feature-based classification camp of cognitive scientists who argued that the only way we know anything is to be able to recognize a set of features and thereby assign those features to a class.

The canonical example is a dog – furry, four legs, barks. If I see those features, I can categorize the object as a dog, and know to scratch its ears. Without the features, we are lost.

But you know what? I’ve seen three legged dogs, and hairless dogs, and mute dogs. And I knew them all – and they all loved me.

I don’t know what to label my relationship with JR, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know it, and value it.

I'm better because Minnie and Tyrone are in my life. And I'm better because JR has been in my life for a long time.

So let it be written, into the future.